Dave Seddon’s press view

Sam Johnstone

Sam Johnstone

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Just 39 days on from their Wembley triumph, Preston’s squad will report back for the start of pre-season training on Thursday.

Championship life starts for real, the focus being on the job in front of them rather than that May afternoon under the national stadium’s arch.

As things stand, it will be a familiar bunch of players gathering at Springfields for five weeks of graft ahead of the campaign’s opener against Middlesbrough.

So far, the main business of the summer at Deepdale has been concentrated on keeping together the core of the squad which got them up.

However, that is not to say the need for new faces has been ignored.

Work has been going on behind the scenes to land Simon Grayson’s targets.

Getting existing players on new and improved contracts is often quicker to do than an external signing.

In the terms of a cash buy, a fee needs negotiating with the other club before attention can be turned to the demands of the player.

Hence a degree of patience is required as supporters wait for signings to land.

Quality is worth waiting for, this close season being very much about that rather than quantity.

If by waiting that little bit longer as opposed to diving straight in, the price comes down slightly, the argument is that more money remains in the pot for later dealings.

Grayson mentioned the other week how he could have filled his squad by now had he jumped in and gone for the first few names which landed on his desk.

You know the sort, those who get linked with a host of clubs in agent-planted media stories.

The ones who don’t shout about their availability tend to get snapped-up.

It is clear which areas of the squad need attention.

Players are needed in both full-back positions, while Grayson wants another striker.

A winger for the left flank is also on the shopping list.

Sam Johnstone is wanted between the posts, that deal seemingly hinging on Manchester United sorting out their seniors keepers before letting him back out on loan.

From the outside looking in, it is right-back and left-back which would seem priority.

While Calum Woods can play both sides, he cannot do so at the same time.

Scott Laird’s exit certainly surprised the PNE hierarchy and perhaps in the longer term, there could be two new arrivals on that left hand side of defence.

In terms of numbers, the size of the squad is obviously lower than it was last season.

With six players released, two more choosing to move on and the Johnstone loan still needing completion, it is nine bodies lighter than at the end of last season.

That said, not all nine need replacing, with the squad a tad top-heavy last season.

Of the six players let go, none were regulars over the second-half of last term.

Using the 2-1 defeat at Crawley on January 31 as a marker, David Buchanan did not feature again after that.

Jack King played three games and Scott Wiseman featured in seven – four starts and three from the bench.

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s last start was at Crawley, with seven appearances as a sub coming after that – totalling 32 minutes of football.

Lee Holmes appeared once as a sub in October, with Keith Keane not featuring at all.

So it is not as if six starters have been lost in one fell swoop.

Laird falls into a different category, the bulk of his time on the pitch coming in the wake of the Crawley loss.

The season-turner against Sheffield United in the FA Cup at the start of February was the first of 22 successive starts. So clearly there is a big gap to fill there.

Thorsten Stuckmann, who like Laird was offered a new deal but turned it down, found chances limited after the arrival of Johnstone.

He featured in the two cup competitions by reason of Johnstone being cup-tied but didn’t play in the league after January 10.

Stuckmann provided strong cover on the bench, a decision now needed on whether Jamie Jones can do that – if indeed he wants to – or if a new No.2 keeper is required.

Someone who is determined to be part of it all this season is Alan Browne, the midfielder being the latest member of the current squad to sign a new contract.

The Lilywhites clearly think highly of the young Irishman by handing him a three-year deal, the length of the contract giving him the time to develop the talent which he undoubtedly possesses.